A total of P5.9 billion was added to the budget of the National Broadband Program of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) which intends to widen the coverage and boost the country’s internet services.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who defended the DICT’s budget for 2021, said the Department of Budget and Management had allocated only P902 million budget to the government agency.
Senate Finance committee chairperson Sen. Juan Angara pushed for an additional P3 billion budget while the House of Representatives insisted on 2 billion added allocation.
With the augmentation of the budget, Angara said the DICt could continue Phase 1 of the National Broadband Program that would redound to the benefits of people in the National Capital Region up to Davao.
This program would not include Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and some island provinces like Palawan.
But even with the budget augmentation, Lacson noted this was not enough because P18 billion was still needed for the broadband program to be operational within one year.
To be fully operational, he said it would need P46 billion..
Lacson issued the call to complete the funds for the national broadband program as P34 billion would be saved by the entire government from internet subscription within 5 years.
He said the Senate would also incur savings. At present, a Senator’s office is paying P2 million each year for internet services.
He also said the government could also earn from the broadband services because they could exact payment from private telecommunication companies.
Sen. Grace Poe also vouched to give DICT additional budget. She said that the students and employees who were working from home needed faster internet services now with the pandemic.
She also recommended to the DICT to prioritize areas with no signal of the internet or those being refused by the telecommunications companies.
The government, she said, could build towers there so they could have cellular and internet signal.
According to Poe. laying down crucial infrastructure for connectivity should not suffer budget cutbacks given its immense benefits to the people.
“Making internet readily accessible and affordable to all Filipinos means wider opening for information, service and opportunity that the internet holds,” Poe said
The DICT said that due to BAYANIHAN-2, the construction of cell towers were expedited. Earlier, more than 30 permits for the building of cell towers were ordered suspended.
In just almost four months, the DICT had built 1,200 towers which can help improve internet services.
But the DICT admitted the number was not yet enough.
At present, there are only 20,000 cell towers in the country servicing 4,000 subscribers which are grappling for signal in one tower. DICT said the country needs 50,000 cell towers.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, however, questioned if private telecommunications companies weree capable of building towers which were expensive.
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